Television

La La Land: Series Premiere

La La Land is not nearly as smart or edgy as Da Ali G Show, as it offers none of the social commentary, cultural criticism or broad pathos that Borat or Bruno mustered, even in their lowest low-brow moments.


La La Land

Airtime: Mondays, 11pm ET
Cast: Mark Wootton
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: Showtime
Air date: 2010-1-25
Website
Trailer
Amazon

A British comic comes to the States under false pretenses and disguises himself as various stereotypes to put unsuspecting Yanks in awkward situations on camera. Repeatedly, his interviewees don't know he's in character, only pretending to be racist, sexist, and/or incompetent. This describes the past 10 years of Sacha Baron Cohen's work, and now, Mark Wootton in La La Land.

The series opens with a series of stories provided by each of Wootton's characters as they arrive at LAX with a Hollywood dream in tow. Brendan Allen is a documentary filmmaker, made evident by his scrappy beard, potbelly, and desire for critical relevance. Shirley Ghostman is an effeminate male psychic with mall hair and a checkered past, and Gary Garner is an East London pub-crawler and aspiring actor whose personal hero is Jason Statham. All are hyperbolically affected, but, rest assured, Shirley's swishy gait and occasional lisp does not make him any more compelling -- or humorous, for that matter.

In a word, Wootton's characters are repellent. There's nothing redeeming about any of them, and if there's any lesson to be drawn from the assholes played by Larry David, Ricky Gervais, and Gary Shandling, audiences prefer them to be lovable in some way. Worse, La La Land is not nearly as smart or edgy as Da Ali G Show, as it offers none of the social commentary, cultural criticism or broad pathos that Borat or Bruno mustered, even in their lowest low-brow moments. Instead, Wootton clumsily aims for what might be America's easiest target: Hollywood.

Fittingly -- and disappointingly -- his fame-hungry characters don't raise questions concerning politics or inhabit any realm of social interest; they are as vapid as their environment. When Brendan has an opportunity to pitch an idea to influential producer Sheldon Altfeld, he proposes that his documentary will "break new ground" when he endeavors to film sharks underwater. When Altfeld dismisses the idea as having already "been done," Brendan continues to explain that the filming would take place inside a protective steel cage. Again, Altfeld assures him, "It's been done." But the two still go back and forth and back again on the idea, with Brendan indignantly insisting he's never heard of any "Jock" Cousteau. The problem with the exchange is that it has no resonance other than to showcase Brendan's ignorance. (For the record, scenes like this can work. See: Ali G interviewing Noam Chomsky.) Once the scene finally ends, we've learned nothing about Brendan as a filmmaker or his underlying ethos, only that he's stupid. So what?

Brendan is too underdeveloped to invite viewer investment or even much disdain. So too are the show's supporting characters, like Brendan's longsuffering PA and camerawoman Kiki. He reportedly spotted her potential while she was dancing in a cage in a Koreatown strip club, and was compelled to hire her on the spot. According to the series' opening title card, neither Kiki nor anyone other than Wootton is an actor, a fact that makes her one-dimensional depiction unfortunate to the point of offense. Yes, her English is poor, her beginnings inauspicious, but to humiliate her as Brendan does repeatedly for a laugh doesn't make us loathe Brendan, but rather, Wootton. He confuses her, corrects her, castigates her -- but if she's not in on the joke, how is it funny, exactly?

2
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.